David Timnick of Intronaut [2015]

I talked to Intronaut’s guitarist Dave Timnick in Minneapolis, MN on November 23rd, during the band’s tour in support of Between the Buried and Me. We discussed the song- and lyric-writing process on their latest album The Direction of Last Things, his drumming background, and the mysterious outro on Sul Ponticello. I also talked to Joe Lester, Intronaut’s bassist, and that interview can be found here.

You’ve said that you wanted your records to sound the same as your live performances. Is that why you made your recording time so short – only 4 days?

The reason for that was a combination of things. We wanted to have someone good mix the record, because we’ve been a part of the mixing process for every record we’ve done and we just haven’t been satisfied with the finished product – sonically, anyway. In order to do that, we had to spend less money on the recording time so we could spend more for the mixing, but we didn’t want to cut corners as far as the quality of the recording, so we wanted to record at a good studio, which costs money, and the only way to do that was to have that studio time be condensed into like four days. All those reasons led us to the idea of tracking the record live so that we could do it in four days while still getting really good quality audio and then having some proper mixing done for it. It was the perfect storm of things where it finally did capture, I think, the way that we sound live.

But initially it was a thing of limited resources.

Yeah. Everything we do is a thing of limited resources. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

Since the recording process was so short, was the writing process the same or different in terms of length?

No, the writing process was the same. The only difference was – I don’t even know if it was that much of a difference – we knew going into the studio that there was going to be no time to punch in a lot or take your time, so we had to have everything down. Once the writing was all done, we rehearsed a lot more intensely than we normally would going into the studio because we knew there wouldn’t be two to three days for guitars and so on. Everything had to be done in four days. Everyone had to own their parts in order to get it done. And even then, it was still pretty nerve-wracking. We all, at the time, wanted to go back in and change some stuff but we couldn’t and it ended up being cool. When the whole recording process was done, all of us were really stressed out and like, ah fuck I wish I would’ve gone back in and been able to change this or change that, but when it was all said and done, we’re glad that we weren’t able to. If you have too much time to change everything and try everything a million times until you get it the way you want you hit a point of diminished returns. It was about going in there, nailing it as best we could, and then…

Hoping it works out.

Exactly, then it’s out of our hands. There was nothing we could do.

For this album, the song titles that you’ve gone with could be called a little bit more eclectic than usual. Is there any reason for that?

No. I mean, I don’t know. I write all the lyrics and the song titles and it’s just based on what’s going on. Valley of Smoke was a concept record, so all the songs revolved around a theme. Habitual Levitations wasn’t, so lyrically the approach to this album was similar to Habitual Levitations where every song has an individual story – they’re not all tied in. Sometimes I’ll try to get cute and tie some themes in song-to-song but for the most part it was just what was going on.

Whatever came to you in the moment.

Yeah, exactly. I try very hard not to be full of shit when I write lyrics. I try to only write what I know about or what I’m thinking about, but I like to dress up the language so that it seems very open-ended. If you don’t know what the song’s about you can interpret it any number of ways. Really, each song is about something specific.

For Mestis, I noticed you were playing drums left-handed, but you say you’re not ambidextrous. Is that just how you learned how to play drums?

No, I’m left-handed in everything in my life except for guitar and tabla.

Ah.

Those are the only two things under the sun that I do right-handed. Oh, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Maybe that helps, cause I had to learn how to do everything both ways, but as far as instruments go, for some reason, when I started playing guitar, when I started playing tabla, right-handed just made sense [laughs]. And it doesn’t translate over – I can’t play right-handed on a drum set.

And how was that show with Mestis, as a change of pace?

It was great. The thing is, long before I joined Intronaut – Joe and I have been friends since we were in 6th grade. We both started playing music at the same time, and I always played guitar for fun, but drums were the instrument I studied throughout college and everything – as far as a formal musical education. So Joe and I used to play shows, jazz gigs at weddings, rhythm section for funk bands all around LA and whatnot, we used to play a lot of gigs and then he started playing with Intronaut – and he was the one that knew that I played guitar, and based on the nature of Intronaut he was like, I think that you’d be the perfect guitar player in this band, and it all worked out. Then my focus shifted to guitar so I haven’t done anything drum-related for almost a decade except for the stuff I’ve done in Intronaut.

Javier from Animals as Leaders was trying to put together a solo project and he approached me and Joe cause we go back, we’re all friends, and he wanted me to play guitar and I asked him, who do you have in mind for drums? And he had a couple of different names, and I was like, fuck that, let me play drums. I was itching to have a reason to get back to playing drums and when I told him that he was like, what? You play drums? And I said, yeah, sure, send me the music. That was enough to get me motivated to get back into practicing drums every day. We spent the last few months working on that and it was down to the wire where we were getting ready for this Intronaut tour, recording the new album, getting all this shit ready to go, and any minute we weren’t doing that I was spending practicing drums to get my shit together for the Mestis thing. We played that first show, it was great, and we’re going to play many more shows in the future.

I’ve also heard you’re planning a headlining tour in the spring. Do you have any plans, eventually, of going to Europe, especially keeping in mind the recent events – for example, Lamb of God has canceled their tour.

It’s terrible what’s happened and I understand Lamb of God canceling their tour, I’m not one of the people who’s like, ugh, I can’t believe they’d cancel. Honestly, if our European tour were to start right now, I don’t know what we would do. We would probably do it because we can’t afford to cancel anything – we’d have to take the chance. It is scary, but after the headlining tour in the states, there’s definitely going to be at least one, probably two or three European things happening. Probably a headliner or two, and also probably a support slot. There are some pretty awesome things on the horizon for the possibilities of the support slots in Europe, but I can’t talk about them yet.

Right, of course.

But they’ll be awesome if they pan out.

And last question, at the end of Sul Ponticello, the outro is this combination of an Islamic call to prayer, like a TV preacher, maybe, reading Hebrews 10:4, I just looked that up.

[Laughs] Wow, you did more homework than me.

And then there’s the echoing voice also, saying some stuff, where did that idea come from?

I’ll tell you. I made that sample – it was a combination of things, one of them is a straight Muslim fajr prayer thing. Actually, I don’t know if this is like giving anything away but I have a fajr prayer alarm app on my phone and I really like it. We spent some time in India – not that it was like heavily muslim – just the idea that wherever you are during the day, multiple times throughout the day everyone stops and these prayers come through on the loudspeakers. So I had that, and I was driving home from a party and my radio was on AM radio and there was some evangelical preacher and I was like, oh, I love this, it’s so intense, and I started recording it with my phone. So that aspect of it is recorded with my phone in my car. There was also another channel on the radio where it was a choir of Mormon girls singing. Then the voice was another thing I recorded off the radio which was some deep-seated self-help thing but we couldn’t take it verbatim, apparently – the label said we couldn’t do it, so I re-recorded it myself saying it. It wasn’t a planned thing, but it ended up being – you have one thing happening that starts with the fajr prayer, but then another thing comes in, and then it’s another thing and then it becomes chaotic – pretty soon you have four different religious contexts all happening at once and it’s almost hard on the ears, which I ended up liking. It’s kind of like, well, that’s what everyone thinks that their spiritual inclinations are the one and only and you butt heads with everyone else in the world that thinks their spiritual inclinations are the one and only, and it becomes fuckin cacophonous. It started as an experiment of putting these things together, and I ended up liking the way it sounded.

Very interesting to hear about that, that was… unexpected, illuminating.

It’s not all deep and spiritual as it sounds. We try to dance on the fine line of taking ourselves seriously while at the same time not taking ourselves seriously, because as soon as you take yourself too seriously, you’re just another asshole.

I guess that’s true. Thanks for the interview.

Cheers, man. A pleasure.